Ashleyanne Krigbaum wants to make you dance. An all-vinyl DJ, she specializes in 1960s soul rarities with an emphasis on girl groups like The Velvettes and the Marvelettes. Songs with rich oral histories are the ones that attract her the most, particularly the ones where girl groups lament on the small to big things in life.
She grew up in a secluded small island forty minutes east of San Francisco in the Delta River system. (Her town was so small, they didn’t even have a traffic light, school or grocery store!) She grew up around a lot of farmland and it was only a matter of time before this immensely talented and intelligent woman made it out to a bigger city like San Francisco to make waves in the audio world.
Not only does she DJ parties at night, but she also volunteers full-time for KALW 91.7, a public radio station and NPR affiliate in San Francisco. She was also a Gender Studies major in college, which we bonded over during the interview. Make sure you check out her webpage, Tumblr and follow her on Twitter to stay connected with Ashleyanne’s latest projects and parties. And if she ever comes to a town near you, go to one of her amazing parties where you won’t have to sacrifice your politics to have fun and dance all night.
And now, without further ado, the Feministing Five, with Ashleyanne Krigbaum.
Anna Sterling: What got you into DJing?
Ashleyanne Krigbaum: Ever since I was a kid, I’d make mixtapes from the radio of all the songs that I really wanted to hear. In high school, I was really proactive and read the morning news announcements and picked the music that would go over the school broadcast. I started interning at KALX, a music station in Berkeley, when I was in college. I was also starting to go to awesome dance nights in San Francisco that focused on Motown and girl groups, my favorite genre. I never saw a dance night like that. Every single DJ I saw at that time playing records in the mid-2000s were all male though. I moved to England five years ago and my friend Bridget was doing the same thing in England. She was a 60s girl group and soul DJ doing all vinyl for these big parties. I started DJing shows with her in England and brought it back to America. I ended up being one of the first women to be popular DJing 60s soul here. Making your friends dance to music you love is the best. I would do it all day everyday if I could and I kind of do.
AS: How does gender play out in the DJing world?
AK: My viewpoint is specific to the 60s soul, oldies and garage rock sort-of DJ nights. What I saw in the past was a definite all-boys club on the turntables. The only women I saw were participating in the dance parties. After taking a break from America and coming back, I knew that I wanted to start nights here and make sure I was doing it with women. It was really hard at first. I’ve had interactions with other DJs recently where I’ll ask them about their scene when it comes to women DJs and they say: “There’s no real ones. We don’t take their nights seriously.” But there’s been a definite surge of really well established women DJs in the vinyl world that have started their own nights and gained popularity in the past 2-3 years and the number keeps growing. More women are interested. There’s even a night called “Where my ladies at?” at Beauty Bar in San Francisco for female DJs.
AS: Why do you think there is such stark gender disparities when it comes to DJing? What can we do to be more socially conscious in where we choose to party?
AK: For DJs, their whole job is to create a beat for a party. It has to be a beat that everyone’s going to like and popular music at the time is the best option for most situations. The majority of that industry and lyrics is still skewed towards empowering men over women or disempowering women in general. That is the crux; the music and industry it’s coming from is problematic.
In terms of partying, it’s more about thinking of who put on that party. If you’re going to spend a lot of money at a party, know where that money is going towards. The hardest thing for any DJ is getting paid, which is a whole other kettle of fish.
AS: Who is your favorite fictional heroine, and who are your heroines in real life?
AK: My favorite fictional heroine is Tracy Turnblad from the film Hairspray. She grew up in the small city of Baltimore. She’s super chubby, overweight, dances like the Dickens and doesn’t care what people think about her. She’s down for civil rights and embodies owning who you are, celebrating that and not letting the man tell you what to do. She does all of this with a big bow in her hair.
Right now, an actual living, breathing heroine I’ve been following recently is the Middle Eastern correspondent from NPR, Kelly McEvers. I recently heard her speak in-depth about her process and what a day-to-day situation looks like for her in Bahrain or other places. She’s fearless in getting a story out and the fact that she goes into some of the most unruly places in the world to tell their stories thoughtfully and accurately is really inspiring.
AS: You’re going to a desert island and get to take one food, one drink and one feminist. What do you pick?
AK: I would take fresh spring rolls from my favorite Vietnamese restaurant. For my beverage, I’d take Americano. And my favorite feminist who I would take on the island with me is my housemate Lisa Jervis. She founded Bitch magazine. She’s pretty amazing and 100% fully human.